My Week - 27 April 2015 - Celebrate Week

Professor Vivien Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Student Education, gives an update on the Laidlaw Library and celebrates the achievements of our students.

Professor Vivien Jones

This is an auspicious week for student education. On Friday, the new Laidlaw Library was officially handed over to the University. The library will be an inspiring resource for our students, and it seems somehow appropriate that the handover has come at the beginning of Celebrate Week, when we join with LUU in a series of daily events which showcase and reward a wide range of student activities and achievements.

Workmen are still titivating the areas around the new library, and the notorious traffic lights on Hillary Place haven’t disappeared quite yet, but as the hoardings come down the full splendour of the Laidlaw Library is gradually being revealed and it’s very nearly ready to welcome students. At the end of last week I had the privilege of joining our librarian, Stella Butler, and other members of the library team in a tour of this iconic building. It was thrilling to see the plans that have been pored over for so long turned into actuality. It’s hard to believe that the former site of the visitors’ car park could have accommodated this spacious, high-spec library, with its imposing central atrium surrounded by imaginatively-designed learning areas, many of which have lovely views down to the city, across the roof garden with its beehive, or at interesting angles to the Emmanuel Church.

It’s what goes on in buildings that really matters, but buildings are nevertheless hugely important. And in the case of something like a library it’s not so easy to separate surroundings from the activities that they accommodate. Though digital technologies mean that resources can be accessed and learning can happen pretty much anywhere, students still want dedicated places in which to learn. The well-designed, technology-enabled spaces in the Laidlaw Library will help teach our students to learn effectively and flexibly – whether in the more traditional silent areas, or the collaborative learning booths with their app-driven touch screens. As we would expect from the Partnership, students have been consulted throughout the process and, with their input, the Laidlaw brings our student library provision firmly into the twenty-first century, not just rivalling but surpassing many of the investments in new libraries at peer institutions.

But buildings are also important expressions of institutional pride and confidence. The Laidlaw Library speaks of the University’s past as well as its future. The Portland stone of which it’s built echoes that of the Parkinson Building, an aesthetic feature which is also a physical reminder of the continuity between this new library and the vision of Lord Brotherton, which was so instrumental at the beginning of the twentieth century in giving Leeds real distinction as a university. And just as students have long colonised the Parkinson steps outside the Brotherton, they will surely also be sitting very soon on the steps outside the Hillary Place entrance to the Laidlaw – and doing so, we hope, into the next century, in a pleasingly human echo of past with future.

So there is even more than usual to celebrate this Celebrate Week, adding to the excitement of the Partnership Awards, the events in honour of Hall Execs and Intercultural Ambassadors, the Sports Colours, the LeedsforLife Citizenship Awards, the distribution of RAG funds to local charities and, as the climax to the week, the spectacular Riley’s stage show by the performing arts societies. I do encourage colleagues to come along to at least one of these – a really enjoyable way to get a flavour of the richness and quality of the co-curricular side of a Leeds education. Full details can be found on the LUU website.

Hope to see you there!


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